Shrine of Remembrance Amendment Bill 2011

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It gives me pleasure to rise to speak on the Shrine of Remembrance Amendment Bill 2011. When I talk about the Shrine of Remembrance I am reminded of another place that is close to my heart and to the hearts of the people of the Ivanhoe electorate, and that is Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, which marks its 70th anniversary this year. The shrine does not function just as a memorial but is also a place of education, and I am pleased to point out that between 4 March and 31 July this year the Shrine of Remembrance, amongst its exhibitions on display to national and international visitors, and also to schoolchildren, will mount an exhibition called Care, Compassion, Community: 70th Anniversary of the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital which focuses on the work that has been done over 70 years at the hospital in the heart of the Ivanhoe electorate.

I am really looking forward to the opportunity of visiting that exhibition, and I would encourage others to do so. It gets back to and reflects on the work that is done at the Shrine of Remembrance to provide education and opportunities for people in our community to learn more about the sacrifices of those who have served our country.

I note that this bill is a continuation of work that was started under the Brumby government to modernise a lot of the legislative framework that the shrine operates under. The State Services Authority conducted a review in 2009 and its recommendations were the basis for this bill and the legislative reforms that have been put before this house. An exposure draft of the bill was released to the community in October and November last year, and I note that some 37 submissions were received on the proposed changes. I am very pleased that the bill has the support of the shrine trustees, the RSL, Melbourne Legacy, the Victorian Veterans Council and the Melbourne City Council.

As I said earlier, the bill updates the legislative framework the shrine operates under. I note that the Bracks Labor government was the first to give specific recognition to veterans affairs when it established that portfolio in 2004 with the former Premier, Steve Bracks, as the minister. I am really keen to focus on some of the work that is done in my electorate at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, a hospital that both the Bracks and Brumby governments invested in significantly over a number of years. The hospital has a new health and rehabilitation centre that is ready and waiting for a minister to come out and open and to acknowledge the great work that is being done by the staff and veterans to fundraise while working in what has been a very difficult and challenging environment of construction works. The Shrine of Remembrance will be holding the opening of its exhibition this week. The exhibition will run until July to provide an opportunity for people in the community to learn more about the great work of the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital and the support it continues to provide to veterans in our community today.

I note that this amended bill also provides the opportunity for new trustees to be added and increases from four to six the number of people the minister is authorised to nominate as trustees. I think that provision is important, and a number of stakeholders in the community have supported it through submissions on the bill. I also note though that the minister must be satisfied that the nominees have experience in a range of areas. These areas are very important when you think about the historical value of the Shrine of Remembrance and the significant place it has in not only the veteran community but also the Victorian community. We need to make sure that we are putting people with experience in the right jobs to look out for, to advocate for and to be custodians of the rich history the Shrine of Remembrance has in Victoria. The shrine, as it relates to people in my electorate, provides a great opportunity for people to learn more about the history of our local community and the history of those who served our country in times of conflict.

I note that the arrangements put in place by this bill remove the role of the Melbourne City Council in the development of the trust’s business plan, but I am sure that the proposed addition of new trustees to the shrine and the opportunity for the minister to increase from four to six the number of people he can appoint as trustees will provide a great opportunity to appoint people with experience in the areas we need to make sure are dealt with. Those include areas such as fundraising, business, finance or administration and liaison with military services and veterans affairs.

I commend the work of the trustees of the Shrine of Remembrance; they do a sterling job. In organising the exhibition the shrine has in place for the 70th anniversary of the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital the hospital has been very pleased with the interaction it has had.

The feeling is that the memorabilia it has provided for this exhibition is being respected and looked after and is going to provide a great opportunity for people to learn more about the sacrifices that those in our veteran community have made in the past. I commend this bill to the house.

Something else that it is important to note is the history of the shrine. Sir John Monash was a key contributor to and driver behind the establishment of the shrine, particularly in relation to the public subscriptions that were made and the fundraising that was done to turn the shrine into the great monument it is today. It is a living and breathing monument that we need to take great care of and we need custodians to look out for. We need to ensure that it continues to provide an opportunity for people to learn more about our history and the sacrifices people have made. There is a great need to ensure that there are opportunities for people to learn about that history.

I hope that in future consideration and support continue to be given to those who want to serve as trustees for the shrine so that educational opportunities can continue to be provided through these exhibitions. We need to make sure that the stories continue to be told and that there are opportunities for people to learn more about the work of our forefathers and those who have made great sacrifices. There are many people in the Ivanhoe electorate who continue to enjoy the services and support of the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, and I know they will be looking forward to the opportunity to visit the shrine. We will be running a number of tours from my electorate to provide that opportunity for people, and we will also be looking at ways to continue to provide access to those veterans who would like to visit the shrine and the exhibition. I will be talking further with representatives of RSLs in my electorate about those opportunities.

I will touch again on the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital and the exhibition that will be under way later this week at the Shrine of Remembrance, given that it is the 70th anniversary of the repatriation hospital. There are some historic buildings at the repatriation hospital, and there has also been some great investment that has been contributed to not only by those who have fundraised in the veterans community and made donations but also by those in the Bracks and Brumby governments who have left a strong legacy of investment in new services for veterans at the repatriation hospital. One can look at the history of the health and rehabilitation centre, which we are yet to see officially opened by the government, as an important part of marking and respecting the work, commitment and compassion of staff at the repatriation hospital. It will be great to have that done as soon as possible.

As chair of the repatriation hospital master plan committee — which meets again on Friday this week — I look forward to giving the committee a report updating it on the passage of this bill through this house. I look forward to giving the committee members an update on when the minister will be available to come out and mark their work on, their commitment to and their compassion reflected in the health and rehabilitation centre that has been built and funded by the Bracks and Brumby governments. I look forward to being able to encourage them to go to the Shrine of Remembrance to look at the exhibition from 4 March to 31 July and to look at the 70-year history that we mark at this time at the repatriation hospital. The Shrine of Remembrance is providing that opportunity for people to continue to see that history live on and to respect the work that is being done. I commend the bill to the house and I wish it a speedy passage.